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Kristjan Järvi, an internationally well known charismatic Estonian musician and conductor (familiar to Estonians in the USA as he, his brother Paavo and their father Neeme Järvi have guest conducted several USA symphony orchestras, and Kristjan co-founded the New York based classical hip-hop-jazz group Absolute Ensemble),  is featured in a documentary film, “Nordic Pulse”, directed by David Donnelly, 2019.  


It was shown this November in Canada at the Calgary European Film Festival, at the initiative of Alberta Estonian Heritage Society president, Kelly Schuler. 


As with other film festivals in this coronavirus year, the festival went digital.


The films could be watched online in one’s own home over a ten-day span across all of Canada. 


“Nordic Pulse” had good box office sales with several interested persons attending the virtual panel discussion as well.  


The showing of this film was also supported by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and the Festival’s own presenting organization, the European Cultural Society of Calgary among many others.

Quotes from Reuters news agency:  „Kristjan Järvi has earned a reputation as one of the canniest, and most innovative programmers on the classical scene.“


  „…Järvi has been breaking down ’concrete barriers’ between the audience and classical music pretty much since he became a conductor, starting off as an assistant to Esa-Pekka Salonen at the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1998“.

“Nordic Pulse” is the kind of film one would want to see at least a couple of times to fully appreciate its form and storytelling.


  It follows the formation of a brand new youth orchestra, Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic, as the collective protagonist.


At the same time, the film also tells Kristjan Järvi’s story of leaving Soviet Estonia for the United States of America in the 1980’s, and of developing his unconventional perspectives on making music. 


Together with the accomplished musicians who take on unimagined challenges in music and develop further under the guidance of Järvi, film viewers experience the power of music to overcome boundaries of geography and human convention. 


The film depicts the musicians’ emotions and reactions as they memorize the half-hour long „Firebird Suite“ by Stravinsky as an experiment in performing complex music without sheet music on stands in front of them. 


Subsequently the orchestra has become accustomed to memorizing two-hour long concerts.

As the years passed, the orchestra changed its name to the Baltic Sea Philharmonic.



The “Nordic Pulse” Panel Discussion was another coup led by the Alberta Estonian Heritage Society. 


Moderated by Kelly Schuler from Canada, Kristjan Järvi participated from Italy, director David Donelly from England and Dr. Liina-Ly Roos from the USA. 


A professor at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Roos specializes in twentieth to twenty-first century Nordic and Baltic culture with a specific focus on post-WWII and contemporary film, television and literature. 


The hour-long panel event was first seen live on Zoom; the recording was then made available via the internet the next day.

During the panel, Kristjan Järvi discussed further his philosophy of music that is intricately entwined with life. 


His goal of doing away with the music stands, for example, is not only about reaching a new level of music performance, but it is also ultimately about listening to, supporting and trusting each other. 


The freedom that comes from not having to rely on music stands is based on both discipline and a willingness to leave one’s comfort zone. 


His sometimes unconventional or ’un-normal’ style of leadership, as quoted several times in the film, has inspired the international young musicians who joined his vision twelve years ago, to stay with the orchestra and achieve more than they could have believed of themselves.  



Kristjan Järvi.   Photo: Mardo Männimägi STUUDIO7


Järvi encourages his musicians, and perhaps also the viewers, to take risks, and as he says in the film, to rethink what the term ’success’ even means. 


Is it about following perfectly the conventional ways of working and of seeing the world, or, is it about creating something new; rediscovering that everything is possible?  For Järvi, it is the latter.  

Completed in 2019,  “Nordic Pulse”’s planned distribution was disrupted by the pandemic, but will be widely available in 2021.
Helgi Leesment, Victoria, BC

Dr. Liina-Ly Roos, Madison, Wisconsin


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